‘I trust the process that’s underway, just as I’ve always trusted the decisions of the voters…’
(Ely Portillo, The Charlotte Observer) Mark Harris, the congressional candidate at the center of the unfolding election fraud investigation in North Carolina’s 9th District, said Friday that he would “wholeheartedly support” a new vote if fraud could have changed the outcome of his contest last month.
“If this investigation finds proof of illegal activity on either side to such a level that it could have changed the outcome of the election then I would wholeheartedly support a new election,” said Harris, in a video statement released by his campaign. He also said he was unaware of any wrongdoing and is cooperating with the ongoing investigation, which he hopes will lead to his victory being certified before congress starts its new session in January.
Harris has not taken questions from the media since the story first erupted last week, when the North Carolina Board of Elections refused to certify the results of his race against Democrat Dan McCready. Harris could be seen at his southeast Charlotte home Friday, but a campaign representative said he would not be available for an interview.
He said he supports an investigation into voting irregularities that could have benefited “either party in this election or past election cycles.”
McCready, who initially conceded the Nov. 6 race after unofficial results showed him losing by 905 votes, withdrew his concession Thursday. He’s calling for Harris to explain what he knew about an alleged scheme to illegally collect absentee ballots in Bladen County and when.
“I didn’t serve overseas in the Marines just to come home to North Carolina and watch a criminal, bankrolled by my opponent, take away people’s very right to vote,” McCready said Thursday.
The Harris campaign hired Cornelius-based political consultant Red Dome Group and paid them almost $430,000. Andy Yates, the founder and head of Red Dome, has said the firm hired Bladen political operative McCrae Dowless as an independent contractor. Dowless is alleged to have run an absentee-ballot-collecting operation that benefited Harris.
“My campaign and I are cooperating fully with the State Board of Elections investigation and we will continue to do so. I trust the process that’s underway, just as I’ve always trusted the decisions of the voters,” said Harris. “Although I was absolutely unaware of any wrongdoing, that will not prevent me from cooperating.”
A campaign finance filing late Thursday shows the Harris campaign owes Red Dome $34,310 for “Reimbursement Payment for Bladen Absentee.”
The Board of Elections is planning to hold an evidentiary hearing by Dec. 21. They could call for a new election. Top Democrats in the U.S. House have also said they likely won’t seat Harris in Congress if he arrives next month, heightening the pressure for a new race.
Dallas Woodhouse, the North Carolina GOP’s executive director, said Thursday that the party is open to a new election if it can be shown that fraud could have changed the outcome.
“We will not oppose if the non-partisan Board of Election investigators determine the outcome of the race was changed or there is a substantial likelihood it could have been,” Woodhouse said.
But Robin Hayes, the state party chair, said he thinks Harris should be certified as the winner.
“Based on what we know at this point,” Hayes told The Charlotte Observer on Thursday, “we think Mark Harris fairly and correctly won this election and we think he should be certified.”
Harris won mail-in absentee ballots by a margin of 420 to McCready’s 258 in Bladen County. In the primary, when he defeated incumbent Republican Robert Pittenger by 828 votes, Harris’s margin in Bladen County was even bigger—437 mail-in absentee votes to 17 for Pittenger.
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